SimCity is getting a lot of flack from players and consumers about its policy of requiring that they remain connected to EA’s servers to enjoy the game, even when playing in single-player mode. Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw has indicated that SimCity actually requires the online connection, since it does a lot of important calculations on remote servers. But now a modder called UKAzzer has created a demo (via Polygon) that shows the game is indeed workable in an offline setting.
UKAzzer’s demo shows unlimited offline editing of city highways by accessing debug mode, and even claims that these changes are saved back to the server once again when you reconnect later without issue. Is it perfect? No. The mod apparently shuts off key game features like playing across regions and the ability to save games. But it’s meant to demonstrate just that editing is possible in an offline environment, over extended periods of time, without communication back to the server.
The demo is meant to counter claims that it would require a significant amount of engineering to render SimCity playable offline, claiming that it simulates the entire region within which a player’s city is situated on its servers. This hack was essentially designed to refute that claim, at least in part. It follows claims by an anonymous Maxis engineer who claimed that Maxis servers aren’t doing much of anything regarding important computation.
SimCity’s online requirement is likely more about enforcing DRM protection to prevent piracy of the game than about user experience, and users like UKAzzer are clearly trying to make that more apparent. EA has just today said that it completed server upgrades designed to address the launch problems, so it’s now likely hoping the negative reviews and backlash fall by the wayside.
But while requests for offline play might get quieter, they likely won’t go away entirely any time soon. And the fractured and hurt gamer community won’t forget this launch or the impact of the online only requirement on people’s perceptions of a beloved brand. Big studio blunders, however, make for small player opportunity. Diablo III’s always-on requirements were definitely helpful to sparking interest in Torchlight 2, the sequel to Runic’s dungeon crawling alternative to Blizzard’s classic. It’d be great to see a scrappy city sim emerge to help ease the pain for spurned SimCity fans.